Further insights


Façade of San Salvatore in Campi in a photo from 1908



The Church of San Salvatore in Campi, formerly known as the “Pieve di Santa Maria”, rises on a tableland along the old Via Nursina, previously linking Spoleto to Norcia. The Romanic church, almost a quarter of the extant, replaced a former Roman building, a small pagan temple, dedicated to Santa Maria (Holy Virgin) by approaching Christendom. Up to 1493, it proves to depend on Sant’Eutizio dei Preci near Abbey; since 1115, Benedictine monks account for the Church in their documents.
An earlier reconstruction dates back  to the beginning of the XIV century, after 1328’s earthquake: it lengthened the single gable-roof nave, it raised the presbytery at the back and enriched the façade with a new pointed arch door, adorned with the Benedictine cross lamb. At the end of the XV century, the ancient Church came to include  another hall, symmetrically raised on the right. The right door bore 1491 as engraved, probably the year of its completion.  It matches with the building’s dedication to San Salvatore along with Campi’s Castle turning into an “extra moenia” Church, from the Benedictine monks to Campi’s Community, under  the parish of Sant’Andrea del Castello in 1493. The extension would give the Community a  two-nave church of four bays each, two symmetrical doors with a rose window each and a gable-roof covering.



The two halls composing the church were linked up by a single gable-roof on a symmetric façade, with two rose windows and two pointed arch doors, finely engraved. The right door, two-splayed with spiral column and the respective rose-window were much richer than the left side ones, however boasting more accuracy in curtain wall.
There was also a small medieval porch held by a central squat column and two side doors.
From the outside on the right, the external wall was in a shoe pattern, with many a stripped pieces (inscriptions and a fragment of frieze). A high well smoothed ashlar bell tower topped the wall. Started in XV century by local masters, it was  completed around the year  1538 by Lombardy masters. It was composed of three orders from a molded base, with five small splayed windows; it lacked the spire, lost in the earthquake in 1859.
Close to the left side wall, there is a little cemetery.
On the left aisle, about half its length, there was a strange structure, difficult to precisely classify and describe. It is a kind of architecture in the architecture, defined as “iconostasis” (chancel screen). The dates engraved on the upper railing suggested some Church Scholars to place this chancel screen in 1463. All of the left aisle resulted frescoed, up to the back wall behind the altar. The right aisle, on the contrary, proved less decorated, though bearing important testimonies. On the floor, e.g., the engraved , never realized, Church’s bell tower.
Five massive, quadrangular  brick pilasters, of the old right side wall from the oldest body of the Church, divided the room into two naves.
 Cross vaults with ribs covered the right hall, while an exposed wooden covering for the first two spans and frescoed cross vaults for what behind the chancel screen covered the left hall. The Church was entirely made of square stones.

Chancel screen


Close to a triumph arch of the Church there was the Chancel Screen (or Iconostasis). It was three barrel-vault doored on two octagonal columns with Corinthian capitals (with acanthus leaves); the central arch was to all sixth, ogive the side ones, respectively, on a pilaster on the right and on the side wall on the left.
A system of small vaults linked this front to the back, pierced just in the middle by an arch, the same as the one on the main front.
From above the three arches to the left of the iconostasis, there was a strip of engraved stone holding little, mostly spiral columns, different in style as their capitals, supporting 18 to all sixth blind, trilobite, little arches. The Benedictine wanted it to be decorated by the same artists as those working in Visso and Norcia: Giovanni and Antonio Sparapane (father and son, from Norcia), from the inscription on the central arch. They painted: the Annunciation, the Passion, the Pietà, the Donne al Sepolcro (Women at the Tomb) and the Resurrection; in the little arches the Apostles and the Madonna con Bambino  (Virgin with Child). In 1466 Nicola da Siena and Domenico Jacopo da Leonessa decorated the lower part. On the right vault, the latter frescoed: Angeli recanti I simboli della Passione (Angels bearing Passion symbols) and Cristo della Messa di San Gregorio (Saint Gregory’s Mass Christ), stolen after its removing some decades ago. In 1493, on the shorter side, it painted the Saints: Gerolamo (Jerome), Gregorio Papa e Agostino (Pope Gregory and Augustine), after the second nave’s addition.
The iconostasis, by its stone ladder, let into the upper attic, with a big wooden Cross, regarded as miraculous. Behind, on the background, a wide fresco from 1446, come to surface after the earthquake in 1979; it represented Madonna and San Giovanni Evangelista con Angeli (Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist with Angels), keeping Jesus’ blood in chalices, rending their clothes in grieving.




The frescos in San Salvatore in Campi themselves stand for an actual pictorial anthology in the territory, representative of the XV century in Norcia.
 Images from later XIV century, by a painter from Umbria, Spoleto School, decorated the left presbytery back wall and adjacent lunette. The Crucifixion, Giottesque in Style, spread all over the wall. Actually alive the scenery: on the left a small group of patrons and trumpeters, then some Holy women together with Our Lady of Sorrows; further, a haloed group of soldiers on horseback, Longino among other restless knights; lower in the middle Maria Magdalena embracing the Cross, alone in her sorrow. Different one to another the two side Crosses: in the Cross on the right the damned soul went out in the shape of child grabbed by a little devil; in the Cross on the left the soul was received by the Angels. Above, in the middle, the dead Christ’s pale face.
On both sides, the Benedictine wanted their founders Benedict and Scolastica to be painted, as patrons of Norcia.
On the frame in the arch, four Evangelists and four prophets show Passion’s episodes told in phylacteries.






For Bibliography and further insights, see:

Section Il simulacro di San Salvatore in Campi, by Giovanni Luca Delogu, in “Capolavori del Trecento – Il Cantiere di Giotto – Spoleto e l’Appennino”, by Vittoria Garibaldi e Alessandro Delpriori, edizioni Quattroemme, Perugia.

Images, San Salvatore as it was:

from Gabinetto Fotografico Nazionale - Norcia, Campi - Chiesa di San Salvatore - Facciata - Sullo sfondo a destra veduta di Campi (1911)

From “Gli Sparapane da Norcia. Nuovi dipinti e nuovi documenti” by G. Sordini – Facciata della Chiesa di San Salvatore (1908)
(“The Sparapanes from Norcia. New paintings and documents” by Sordini – Façade of the Church of San Salvatore)

Interior of the Church – photos by Delpriori

(The Coronation), back of the iconostasis – photo by Delpriori

Fresco “L’Incoronazione”

may 2019
Text by Chiara Romano

Translation by Rita Quaresima